Clear is an expedited security program available at 53 U.S. airports, as well as stadiums and other large venues, with more than 14 million members nationwide.
As a secure identity platform, Clear uses member data, including fingerprint and iris scans, to automate most users’ identity-verification step in the U.S. Transportation Security Administration screening process. Clear members go through a separate security lane with dedicated kiosks rather than waiting in line for a TSA agent to review their license or passport.
However, as of August, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration is requiring more Clear users at random to verify their identity by showing a valid form of identification. This rolls back the current Clear process for some following security incidents involving Clear.
Clear costs $189 annually, but some credit cards cover the cost.
To help you decide whether Clear is worth it, here’s what you need to know about the expedited airport security program. This includes its benefits and potential drawbacks, and ways to get a discounted (or free) membership.
How Clear works
Clear requires passengers to first complete identity verification in a separate Clear lane by submitting to biometric authentication (a fingerprint or iris scan) at a kiosk. This previously replaced the step of using a TSA agent to inspect government IDs and check boarding passes. However, the TSA is now requiring randomly selected Clear users to verify their identity as all other registered travelers do by showing an ID.
“All Registered Traveler participants will be required to present ID, whether physical or digital, to TSA’s Credential Authentication Technology (CAT), with the timeline for implementation to be determined,” per TSA.
After a passenger’s identity is verified, a Clear representative will escort Clear users to the actual security screening area, bypassing everyone waiting in the first line.
If you’re also enrolled in TSA PreCheck, you’ll go directly to the TSA PreCheck line.
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Additionally, Reserve powered by Clear — which allows travelers to book timed entry through TSA security based on flight departure — is currently available at 18 airports across the U.S., Canada, and Europe, with more locations coming soon.
Random ID checks
TSA has begun rolling back the automated ID process for more and more Clear users, and many travelers, including TPG staffers, have been asked to show their physical ID while using Clear. Others have gone through Clear through automated verification.
For example, TPG director of content Nick Ewen said he and his wife used Clear last week at Palm Beach International Airport (PBI); he was not asked to show his ID, but his wife was. That was also the case for engineer Mark Lindsay and his wife, as well as senior cruise writer Ashley Kosciolek, at Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) recently.
“Last month, I traveled through Orlando, Las Vegas and Miami. Each time I was nervous, I’d be held up by needing to show my ID to the Clear agent, but I was never asked to show my ID and I didn’t notice them asking other travelers to show theirs, either,” family travel writer Tarah Chieffi said. “I’m sure my time is coming, though.”
Other travelers, such as marketing director Ben Glidden, have observed more ID checks slowing down the process overall.
“On Monday in Chicago, the TSA agent was making a big deal about needing to check all IDs going through, and the Clear agent was visibly frustrated as it was holding up the Clear line quite a bit,” Ben said.
Where Clear works
At this time, Clear is available at 53 airports:
- Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)
- Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI)
- Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (BHM)
- Boise Airport (BOI)
- Boston Logan International Airport (BOS)
- Bradley International Airport (BDL)
- Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
- Chicago’s Midway International Airport (MDW)
- Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG)
- Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE)
- Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)
- Dallas Love Field (DAL)
- Denver International Airport (DEN)
- Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW)
- Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL)
- Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (GSP)
- Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)
- Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)
- Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport (HOU)
- Kansas City International Airport (MCI)
- Las Vegas’ Harry Reid International Airport (LAS)
- John Glenn Columbus International Airport (CMH)
- Long Beach Airport (LGB)
- Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
- Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY)
- Miami International Airport (MIA)
- Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport (MKE)
- Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP)
- Nashville International Airport (BNA)
- New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
- New York’s LaGuardia Airport (LGA)
- Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)
- Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC)
- Oakland International Airport (OAK)
- Oklahoma City’s Will Rogers World Airport (OKC)
- Ontario International Airport (ONT)
- Orlando International Airport (MCO).
- Palm Beach International Airport (PBI)
- Palm Springs International Airport (PSP)
- Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX)
- Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU)
- Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA)
- Sacramento International Airport (SMF)
- Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC)
- San Antonio International Airport (SAT)
- San Diego International Airport (SAN)
- San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
- San Juan Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU)
- Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
- St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL)
- Tulsa International Airport (TUL)
- Washington’s Dulles International Airport (IAD)
- Westchester County Airport (HPN)
Additionally, Clear is available at select entrances to the following stadiums during some events:
- Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium — Austin
- State Farm Arena — Atlanta
- Coors Field — Denver
- Ball Arena — Denver
- Allegiant Stadium — Las Vegas
- T-Mobile Arena — Las Vegas
- SoFi Stadium — Los Angeles
- BMO Stadium — Los Angeles
- Kaseya Center — Miami
- Madison Square Garden — New York City
- Yankee Stadium — New York City
- Barclays Center— New York City
- Chase Center — San Francisco
- Oracle Park — San Francisco
- PayPal Park — San Jose, California
- SAP Center at San Jose — San Jose, California
- Lumen Field — Seattle
- Capital One Arena — Washington, D.C.
- Nationals Park — Washington, D.C.
How does Clear compare to TSA PreCheck?
Clear further reduces airport security wait time by automating the identity verification process and whisking users to the front of the TSA line. However, having Clear does not automatically confer TSA PreCheck status, and it’s also currently available at fewer airports than TSA PreCheck.
TSA PreCheck members are not guaranteed PreCheck access every time they fly since they can be randomly excluded and sent to the standard line. On the contrary, Clear has no randomized exclusion of passengers. Also, everyone who enters the Clear line is a member of Clear and probably knows how to operate the system.
On the other hand, the TSA sometimes adds nonmember travelers who have no idea how it works to the TSA PreCheck line. This sometimes holds up the line. Additionally, TSA PreCheck only works when traveling with a participating airline. In contrast, Clear works when traveling with any carrier.
Clear and PreCheck are restricted to certain hours and may not be available during your flight time.
What’s the difference between Clear and Clear Sports?
You can also use Clear at select stadiums via Clear’s Sports & Events access, which is free and available to all Clear members for expedited entry to games at participating stadiums. However, this membership doesn’t provide access to nonstadium Clear locations like airports.
To use Clear Sports & Events, download the Clear app and tap on the black “Sports & Events” tile. Log in to enroll before heading to the Clear lane to show your QR code to a Clear ambassador.
Members can bring one adult guest through the Clear lane daily at stadiums and venues. Children under 18 don’t need a membership and can go through the Clear lane when accompanied by an adult.
How to enroll in Clear
You can either start the enrollment process online and finish at a Clear location, or you can complete the entire process at a Clear location. The enrollment process takes about five minutes (assuming no line) and requires no appointment.
You must complete the final enrollment steps at a Clear location. These steps include answering a few simple questions to verify your identity, showing a valid photo ID, providing a payment method and attaching your biometrics (fingerprints and a picture of your irises) to your newly created account.
To qualify for Clear enrollment, you must be a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident at least 18 years old. You must also have one of the following forms of photo identification: a U.S. driver’s license, a U.S. passport, a U.S. passport card, a U.S.-issued permanent resident card, a state-issued ID or a U.S. military ID.
How to save on Clear
Though the normal rate for Clear membership is $189 per year, there are many ways to avoid paying that full retail price.
Clear members who refer friends to the program receive two months of free membership apiece.
Also, Clear has partnered with select airlines to offer the following special membership rates for their members:
Delta SkyMiles discounts
United MileagePlus discounts
To take advantage of these rates, enter your SkyMiles or MileagePlus number during enrollment, or link your SkyMiles or MileagePlus account after enrolling. Since it’s free to join Delta SkyMiles and United MileagePlus, any U.S.-based passenger can access the discounted membership rates by linking their SkyMiles or MileagePlus account to their Clear account.
Once you are a Clear member, you can log in to your account on Clear’s website and add up to three family members for $60 each per year. Children under 18 can use the lane for free when accompanied by a Clear member.
Which credit cards cover Clear fees as a benefit?
Certain credit cards afford users a free Clear membership. The following cards will reimburse you for up to $189 per year in Clear Plus membership costs:
For rates and fees of the Amex Green card, click here.
If Clear is available at your home airport or one you visit frequently, the program could be a big timesaver for your future travels, regardless of whether you also have TSA PreCheck. There’s often just a single TSA staffer checking documents for both the TSA PreCheck line and the regular security line, so enrolling in Clear can save you valuable time.
Additionally, you can stack those expedited line benefits, and Clear members enjoy more predictable access to security. This means those who check in online without checked bags can arrive at the airport closer to their flight departure time than they normally would and sometimes avoid long security lines.
However, as TSA requires more frequent ID checks among Clear users, the value of Clear may decrease for these travelers.
Additional reporting by Benét J. Wilson, Bill Fink, Summer Hull and Jason Steele.